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Probiotics Health Benefits
The Latin and Greek roots used to make the word “probiotic” give a good idea of why probiotics are so important to overall good health. The preposition pro means “for” in Latin, while bios is the Greek for “life” (think of all the other “bio” word like “biography” (meaning “writing/story of a life”) and “biology” (meaning “study or knowledge of life”). So there you have it: “probiotic” means “for life” or maybe “in favor of life”.
Probiotics are microscopic organisms or bacteria that are vital for our good function. You might shudder and think “I’m not eating germs!” but not all bacteria are harmful for you. In fact, many bacteria are actually needed for good healthy function, especially in the bowel and in a few other areas of the body. These bacteria defend against some infections, especially yeast infections, and also help clean the colon from toxins and wastes. Your gut flora prevents constipation, especially if they have plenty of fiber to work with.
However, there are bad or harmful bacteria around. Sometimes, a good healthy immune system is enough to clear these out – and we can keep our immune systems at full function with a number of health supplements, including Vitamin C and garlic capsules. But for some infections, our immune systems need a helping hand in the form of antibiotics. Modern antibiotics do an excellent job of clearing out harmful bacteria and infections, but they also exterminate the helpful bacteria as well. After a course of antibiotics, we are often prone to conditions caused by a lack of our helpful bacteria – women are more prone to candida, and everyone can suffer from itchy skin and poor bowel function (“antibiotic diarrhea”). This is where taking probiotics is absolutely essential to restore good function.
Women can also suffer from candida (yeast infections or thrush) if the flora within the vagina become unbalanced in some other way. Douching, deodorants, synthetic underwear, some contraceptives and sitting poolside in wet swimwear can all bring on an attack of candida. Probiotics can help combat this irritating condition and stop it in its tracks (applying live yoghurt topically also helps). The benign bacteria will oust the yeasts causing the infection and replace them, so everything functions the way it should. A probiotic should be part of the women’s health supplements in any medicine cabinet.
However, yeasts are also probiotics in their own right, as they are an excellent source of the Vitamin B complex. However, if you are prone to yeast infections, another multivitamin would be a better option – see our full range of vitamins and minerals to choose yours.
Probiotics can also help reduce the incidence of asthma, eczema and other allergy-type conditions. According the “hygiene hypothesis”, if the body is not exposed to enough bacteria during childhood (because of an over-cleaned environment or lack of exposure to bacteria), the immune system does not receive the right stimulation and starts malfunctioning in the form of allergies. Probiotic substances can help prime the immune system so they react to genuine threats rather than everyday substances.
Other benefits of probiotics include:
• Protecting against colon cancer,
• Lowering cholesterol,
• Lowering blood pressure,
• Reducing inflammation
• Fighting certain bowel disorders such as rotavirus in children and travelers’ diarrhea.
• Protecting against peptic ulcers by forcing out the Helicobacter pylori germ that causes them,
• Helping prevent the reoccurrence of irritable bowel syndrome
• Improving lactose intolerance.
Probiotics are safe for children, pregnant women and nursing mothers to take, and the World Health Organization recommends the use of probiotic supplements. They are not recommended for people who are critically ill, but everyone else can benefit greatly from taking probiotic tablets or supplements.